A BUNGLING shop burglar was caught because he suffered breathing difficulties after he forgot to put an air hole in his home-made mask.
Carl Bryan used a pair of leggings as a balaclava-type disguise – but failed to create a gap in the fabric to allow himself to breathe.
When police got to the scene of the early-hours raid at the Co-op in Moor Lane, Sunderland, the 23-year-old was having “extreme difficulty” in breathing, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
Bryan and pal Mark Riddell, 33, targeted the shop, close to a police station and a 24-hour McDonald’s restaurant, in the early hours of Friday, May 2.
Police were alerted by witnesses who had heard the pair making £4,000 worth of damage to the shutters so they could get in.
The pair, both masked, then tried to flee, dumping their haul of stolen cigarettes in the process, but were arrested soon afterwards.
John Wilkinson, defending, told the court the raid was unsophisticated and unprofessional, adding that Bryan was struggling to breathe when the police got there.
Mr Wilkinson said: “Most professional criminals do not choose to burgle premises next door to a 24-hour McDonald’s or which are close to a police station.
“His mask was made of leggings, which he found while out and about, and somehow managed to get eye-holes in.
“It was not the mark of a professional criminal when he did not put a mouth-hole in it.
“When the police arrived, he was having extreme difficulty breathing.
“On any view, it cannot be described as a professional burglary.”
Bryan, of no fixed address, was jailed for 15 months. He had admitted burglary.
Riddell, of Felstead Square, was jailed for a total of 31 months after he admitted burglary and breach of a suspended sentence for an earlier break-in at another Co-op store.
Recorder Mark McKone told them: “At 4am, you damaged a shutter and glass door.
“Property was thrown around, and cigarettes were stolen, though I accept that they were recovered, and £4,000 worth of damage was caused.
“A wrench was left at the scene, and you were both wearing balaclavas.
“I’m afraid it is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified.”
Paul Cross, defending Riddell, said the pair had been at a party nearby when they decided to carry out the burglary, and the raid had not been pre-planned.